Check-out Station: Love Lab ep13 (Friends Forever, Love Experts Never)
Welp! Weeks of misunderstandings, nonsense and shenanigans have led to this, a standoff of wayward emotions and sad faces. And all this when they still have so much work to do. It looks like Natsuo and Riko’s rift is going to have to besolved quickly, or no one is going to get what they want by the end.
The jig is quite clearly up. And by quite clearly, I mean it’s clear to Natsuo and the audience that Riko’s secret is out. Riko, being the natural moron that she is, is still in denial about the situation despite how clearly awkward things are between them. And the longer this situation goes on, the more time is wasted, the more it hurts each of them, and the less likely it is that the student council will recover in time to complete all their love research.
Riko tries to prepare herself (belatedly) to break the news to Natsuo, using Sayori’s newly discovered ability to mimic Natsuo’s voice and a wig. Though the illusion is constantly broken by Sayori’s language, sudden need to be more comical, and her infatuation with shells. Yuiko and Suzu have also noticed the weird air between the two of them, and were freaked out when they came across Natsuo, and she suddenly started crying in the hallway. When they meet Riko and Sayori back in the council room, they tell them about Maki and the awkwardness. And Suzu even starts to cry about how she wishes Riko and Natsuo would just go back to be the same comic duo they’ve always been. This gives Riko an idea and she runs off. Only Sayori seems to have a clue what she’s up to.
Riko doesn’t waste any time meeting Natsuo at the cram school, but she’s more than too late. Another one of Riko’s old elementary school friends has already shown up, and done more than a little bad mouthing of her reputation. He basically calls Riko un-girly, un-cool, un-popular and just dudish! The only thing this serves to do is expose the fact that Natsuo already knows Riko’s been lying, and to get him a swift kick to the face. (He was an *sshole.) Things only get crazier though as Nagi actually stands up for Riko and Maki by admitting that Riko wasn’t totally unpopular, but he did have a crush on her back then. He then makes his idiot friend apologize before he runs away. All this commotion has caught the attention of everyone for blocks, as they’re now surrounded by a wall of people, many of whom think there’s a fight going on. And considering Riko’s swift kick to a guy’s face, I can’t blame them.
All this attention embarrasses Natsuo, who runs off. Riko gives chase, but only after she’s been wacked by Nagi for her careless actions. She does leave him a parting shot, by saying that he was a really nice guy. Though this only gives everyone in the crowd the impression that he’s been rejected again. Masaomi even shows up to rub Nagi’s face in it.
Using that giant, dumb, ridiculous handkerchief that Natsuo put her address on, Riko finds her home and decides to confront her there. It takes some effort, but the confession is finally made – tearfully and awkwardly. Riko’s even prepared to quit the student council and stop being friends to make up for her transgression. But Natsuo will have none of it. A mere double-hand slap to the cheeks, and all is forgiven. Besides, Natsuo makes it very clear that Riko’s “lover expertise” isn’t why she wanted her to be her friend. That choice was made based on Riko’s personality and all the fun they had being around each other. It’s so mushy and emotional that both of them end up crying and hugging in each other’s arms. I can only imagine how awkward all of this must’ve sounded to Natsuo’s family.
And in the end, Riko ends up confessing to everyone else in the group as well. And fittingly, her punishment is a deluxe slapstick whacking from everyone in the group. Just after that is done, the Newspaper Association comes in with their completed work. The student council is impressed with the work, and we’re now privy to a fully up and running love lab!
End of series.
I will say that the setup for this last episode was a mix of a lot of things I’m tired of seeing. I’m tired of the whole “Snowball Lie” trope, where a character tells what they think is a teeny-tiny lie, that ends up being a huge misunderstanding for everyone involved. My main problem with this is either that it’s either a lie that is so small and negligible that it doesn’t warrant the stern responses it gets from supporting characters, or the situation is so easily avoided that it just seems stupid to see the show go in the direction of rotating around one little fib. Though Riko’s situation doesn’t quite fit into either of those categories, which is one of the reasons I give it a pass. The others being that her friends didn’t overreact and gave her a very fair punishment. The other is because I really did enjoy its characters enough to want to put up with this overused plot device.
Something else that annoyed me was just how melodramatic this episode seemed in the beginning and the middle. Maybe it’s just that in real life I’m very blunt with the people I’m friends and family with, but it just seemed a bit too much for me. Then again, I am watching a show pretty clearly aimed at females, so I probably shouldn’t complain too much that it doesn’t suit my needs to a tee. Those tiny complaints aside, the episode was adequate enough.
As for the show as a whole, this really has been a surprise and a treat. What I ignorantly stepped into thinking it would be a yuri comedy to help fill the void left by Sasameki Koto, turns into a quailty shoujo comedy that I found to be one of the easiest watches of the season and the year. The nice pastel colors, the cute character designs, the ability of the show to be set in an all-girls school that is both fun and lively, and filled with surprisingly realistic characters. Oh yes, the characters.
The two leads Riko and Natsuo play off each other incredibly well, while also being a fun twist on expectations, just like the show. Riko is seen as the “Wild One”, a rebellious and attractive and popular girl at the school, who in actuality has a very sensitive personality and ends up being the “straight man” in the relationship with Natsuo. Natsuo is the very popular and beloved student council president (or vice-president depending on who you ask). But behind closed doors, she’s a very sheltered, goofy and naive princess, who is only familiar with her strong work ethic and sense of responsibility. And it is the love lab project that brings the two together and unleashes their hidden personalities. It shows the real good the love lab project does for them. It doesn’t actually do anything to help their pitiful, non-existent love lives. It actually helps them to be themselves in a very stuffy and strict school. And there are more girls in the school like them, which is why this silly scheme of theirs to do love research and report their findings to anyone who cares takes off.
Of the three other girls that make up the student council, Suzu, Yuiko and Sayori; I found Sayori to be the most interesting and complete character amongst them. She’s a somewhat unique female character for me to see around. And it’s not because she’s a greedy female who loves money, I see plenty of that in anime (Faye Valentine of Cowboy Bebop and Nami of One Piece for examples). I liked her because she ended up being much more than that. Not only was she the only character who actually had a boyfriend (what a crappy relationship), but despite her often harsh and logical personality, she showed truly how much she cared for her friends many times in the show. It really seemed easy to envision Yuiko and her as the villains for the show when they appeared, but that’s not what happened. They both ended up being a valuable supports system (Sayori much more than Yuiko) for the love lab. Even when Sayori knew, hands down, that Riko was lying about her love prowess, she didn’t use the situation to her advantage (though some of that was due to Suzu being her kryptonite). She left the honest judgment call up to Riko. It’s for these reasons and more, that she’s my standout character for this show. And is soaking up this massive paragraph in this final blog post for the series.
All that said, Yuiko and Suzu aren’t chopped liver either. Suzu is definitely a well put together moe bomb, complete with klutziness, glasses, short height and flat chest, and even a cutesy voice. But she still managed to be a little bit more than just a collection of things that make you want to put her in a bottle and protect her. She did honestly care very much for her friends and did her best to help them out no matter what. And she was always good for some comedy, too. And Yuiko is a surprisingly realistic adaptation of a tsundere. And I couldn’t help but take notice of her voice because her seiyuu has been popping up in shows I choose to watch a lot this year (Eccentric Family, Vividred). Though I have to say, she had the smallest and weakest role of anyone in the group.
Closing out this show, Love Lab was a very fun watch for this season. It may not be my favorite show of the year, and often it was more of a pleasant slice-of-life watch, than a hilarious comedy, but it will be missed. What I got was a delightful show about friendship, its bonds, and honesty. And I can safely say that this is the biggest surprise of the season (C3-bu coming in a very close second). I hope to see a second season for this crazy group of friends who know nothing about love or the opposite sex, but end up learning more about each other all the time.
- Love Lab ep12: it’s not my fault I’m not popular- oh wait! Wrong show!
- Love Lab ep11: you can’t put on airs forever
- Love Lab ep10: too harsh, too dazzling, too clumsy, too wild and too misunderstood
- On Holiday: Labor Day Anime Special pt1 (Majestic Prince, C3-bu & Love Lab)
- Love Lab ep7: the Misadventures of Rentarou Kurahashi!
- Love Lab ep6: clash at the cram school!
- Check-in Station: Love Lab ep5 (proficiency is the key!)
- Check-in Station Catchup Comedy Special pt1: Love Lab ep3 & 4
- Love Lab ep2: this means waaawr!
- Check-in Station: Blood Lad & Love Lab ep1